In Burtonport


In Burtonport.

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Thursday 19th May 2011.

Sleep was better last night, must have been nearly four hours and although there was no pressure this morning, everyone was up by about 8.00.

After breakfast, of duck eggs, Ruaidhri B started again to extol the beautiful Mount Callan Cheese and suggested that we (Danny!) should write a praise poem. I had to admit that, though I had said the cheese was made by a neighbour, I had never actually met Lucy Hayes, the cheesemaker. All agreed that this presented some difficulties for the author of a praise poem, a difficulty resolved by Ruaidhri O’T’s suggestion of a Limerick. The notice board was commandeered and in a short while this was offered as draft 1:

There was a young lady called Hayes
Who made an impeccable chayse
But the boys Ar Seachrán
When the cheese was all gone
Were sad for the rest of their days.

During clear patches of weather we dried out clothes, sleeping bags, etc.

I went ashore, for the first time since Monday morning and walked around the town, two pubs, one B&B, a barracks (closed) and no shops – there is a small supermarket about half a mile away! Plenty of warehouse type buildings for the fishing industry, mostly deserted. There seems to be only two handy fishing boats here and maybe a few out on Arranmore Island, about ten minutes away.

Some of us took the 11.00am ferry to visit  Arranmore Island. When we landed Danny was in a hurry to contact  R. na G. The Ferry captain put on the radio for us and left us there, looking out from the cockpit at Danny as he made the report which we also heard. More praise for Lucy Hayes on R. Na G. – I should be getting PR fees!

Ruaidhri O’T. Danny, Fionbarr and I had a cup of coffee before going on the circuit of the island, using a free map from the shop next the pub. Ruaidhri B went his own way

We walked around for a while till we came to St. Crone’s Church, which was in part the local museum. It is twinned with Beaver Island, near Chicago, to which some local people once emigrated.

We saw The Beaver Island Cross and learned about Rosie Rua and J.J. Keaveny's poem about the Tatie-hokers.

Fionnbar texted his wife - Catriona, who looked up Arranmore archaeology on Google and texted back to us to go find Uamhaigh na Sceilpe (Cave of the Slaughter) which we found after a visit to the graveyard, all in the area near the church.

“The Cave of Slaughter is located in Uilinn in the south of the island, near a prehistoric promonotory fort. Local folklore has it that a Cromwellian captain called Conyngham slaughtered 70 women and children who had taken refuge here in 1641.”

By ‘coincidence’ this Conyngham is the family whose papers I have been studying in connection with Seafield, Co Clare – they owned Seafield once along with plenty more of West Clare including the entire town of Kilkee.

Danny was in a hurry to get around the whole island so Fionnbarr and I took a shortcut which brought us to the top of Cnoc an Iolair from where there was a magnificent view of west Donegal

We expected to find one addition to the crew on our return – Donnacha O hÉallaithe - but I could see from a distance that the stranger sitting on the boat was not Donnacha. When I got to him he introduced himself in Irish of a distinctly foreign canúint of Irish, as Gregóir, a Russian friend of  Breandán who had travelled down from Coleraine to meet us. while I  was talking with him when a female voice below deck asked “an é sin Donal” this turned out to be Niamh Costigan, another friend of Breandán who had travelled from Belfast to make a programme for BBC radio Ulster, about our Iomramh. She went to the Gaeltacht with Nóirín and Áine Kelly, so I was under a geasa to take care of her, which included doing an interview for her radio and bringing her up to the pub to introduce her to Danny for another interview. In all it seems she was with us for three or four hours.

Donnacha Ó hÉallaithe joined the crew.

The forecast was for continuing gale-force winds so Breandán  decided that seeing as Ar Seachrán was going nowhere before Monday, he would go to Coleraine with Gregoir, which idea appealed to everyone, as there simply was not enough room on the boat for nine people, without everyone suffering.

When they all left Ruaidhri B. prepared dinner in his usual excellent style.

It was after 10.30 pm when dinner was finished and, at Pádraig’s invitation Fionbarr, who is an archaeologist specialising in underwater work, gave us a very interesting talk on two ships his unit were diving on in the Burtonport area. The second was an Armada ship which promises to be a very interesting discovery.

When we went for a pint one pub was already closed but we got in to the other – O’Donnell’s where there were a few poker tables in session. We had three pints and Pat, Fionbarr and Donnacha sang ballads and Danny discoursed on the Kerry emigrants to Bute Montana, this was of particular interest to Fionbarr whose antecedents were among those emigrants.

The ‘craic’ on the boat continued until about 3.00am


In Burtonport Day 2- 20th  May 2011

The lifeboat, which was anchored inside us, was leaving at 8.00 am so we were up about 7.30 having slept about 4 hours. R

Donnacha was appointed convener for the day  and decided on a hackney to Glenveigh. I opted to stay on the boat, which was fortunate as there was a problem with the way the boat was tied up, which could have lead to difficulties if there had been no one there.

Pat Conyngham and Ruaidhri Breathnach left us when it became clear that it would not be possible to get to Tory, their planned destination.  

The travellers came back about 5.00 and Donnacha took over the cooking where Ruaidhri left off, burgers, spuds and peas and not a scrap left over.

Its 9.45 pm now and the weather is stormy and cold, some are already gone and I’m heading towards the pub, now.


21st May 2011.


By 10.30 pm last night, we were ready for the pub The same one – O’Donnells.

The locals explained about the village - in the last ten years two pubs, three shops and the hotel have closed.

The problem stems from the fishing quotas. When the quotas were introduced, fishermen had to fill up forms about the level of their existing annual catches. They felt a need to make sure the catches declared on the quota form matched what they had declared for tax, so everything was massively understated. The quota, eventually allotted to them was 50% of the declared catch –  a tiny fraction of their previous catches! filleann an feall ar an feallaire

Subjects for discussion both in the pub and afterwards back in the boat  while enjoying our nightcap(s) include – Queen’s visit, Garrett Fitzgerald RIP, Lucy Hayes, Ollie Hayes, rugby etc.

To bed eventually at 4.00am.


21st May 2011.

A night of wild squally weather. I reckon that I slept for about four hours, in short spells. I’m beginning to wonder why I ever needed 9+ hours.

Breakfast at about 9.00am and  then somebody sent for a hackney and 5 of us went in to Dungloe – about 5 miles. Cost €10.

Donnacha went to the library and used their internet connection to get weather information for the next five days.

On return to Burtonport Danny and Ruairi went out to Aranmore where there was a big wedding in progress, the first on the island to use a marquis.

Padraig, Fionbarr and I remained on the boat and  after a few  smaller jobs we headed to the pub – The Lobsterpot, this time, to watch Leinster give Northampton a lesson in rugby.

There is free wi-fi access in this pub so we got to see the RTE news item on our departure from Dingle on the RTE Player.

Dinner on the boat.

Danny told us the story of Dan Brick while working on Haughey’s house on Inisvickillaun, finding a homemade copper sowing needle, Dan B. had given it to Maria Simmonds-Gooding for preservation and it had resurfaced recently. He then read a fine poem he had composed about the needle.

Back to the Lobster Pot -Padraig summoned the house guitar and with Fionbarr, started a sing-song,

To bed at 3.20am


22nd May 2011.


This bunk is a bit cramped for using the lap-top. Though it is very narrow it has plenty length so I can store cameras etc that will not fit in the locker at the bed-foot.


Burtonport is in the parish of Acres, diocese of Raphoe, and part of the Rosses. The patron of the parish, is St Croine or Crone – Killcroine. Amongst others the parish includes Arranmore, Iniscaorach and Inisfree.

In the early afternoon we had a visit from Liam Miller, a really nice fellow and it turned out that he had worked previously with Fionbarr, when diving the local Armada ships. He owns a house, which he is renovating, on Inishfree' an island east of Arranmore, and invited us (Padraig, Fionbarr and me) to come out with him on his rib - Inisfree Charters. He showed us the dive sites and then a guided tour of the Island and tea in his house.

There are about forty houses on the island but only one permanent resident – an  Englishman. The old schoolhouse is still roofed. There is a water scheme and ESB for the whole island.

In the evening we headed back up – to the other pub this time. We were eventually joined by the others and the sing-song started again. The barman and locals were delighted with us but contributed nothing – they didn’t even know the chorus of The Homes of Donegal.

By the time we left, we didn’t either!!

A young lad tried to explain to Ruaidhri and I the thrills of driving like a lunatic and told, with pride, of all the cars he had crashed and injuries he had done to himself.


23rd MAY 2011.

Last night was probably the longest sleep I have had so far 3.30 to 8.30. I awoke to hear Padraig discussing the storm that was raging outside.

The boat was almost like it had been out on the high seas, even though we were tied up at the pier. Violent Storm force eleven - One short of a hurricane. This is no way to have a hangover! Departure tomorrow is looking very doubtful and sitting here for the rest of the day, being tossed around by the wind  is not a pleasant prospect.

A text from Ruairi B to Danny:

Dé Satharn 21u la Bealtaine 2011.

“A Dhomhnaill a chara ionmhuin.
Ná dein dearmad ar na h-uibheacha lachain
Airim an bad uaim
Bhi an am againn
Beannacht libh ar fad ar an turas agus oilithearacht naofa
Abair leis na “lads” go raibh me ag cur a dtuairisc
Lucy Ní hAodha abú.



Dé Domhnaigh 22u Bealtaine 2011.

Ní aon dearamh le criu an tSeachrán
A rinne craos ar cháis Choláin,
Saothar Lucy ag eiri gann
Caithfear guidhe chun Naomh Breanndáin


Lucy mar Uachtaráin!


I’m typing the above from the ship’s log and notice that I forgot to mention that all the others went to Na Doiri Beaga on their way home from Glenveigh last Friday and did a programme with Rónan Mac Aodha Bhuí, on R na G.

I had been planning while typing the above that I would be able to go and walk around the area but the wind was so bad that we were not able to pull the boat in close enough to the pier to get off. So we were prisoners on board until late in the afternoon when we got ashore via the dinghy. We went to the pub and checked emails and weather reports on the internet. The verdict on these reports keeps changing – possibly get away tomorrow – but where to? -  the rest of the week looks very bad. Word was sent to Breandán O C to come back, in the hope we would get going tomorrow.


24th May 2011.

In the morning I went up the town and bought a life-jacket, cost €70 which Pádraig reckoned to be cheap.

I hear the experienced sailors saying now that the trip up from Dingle was the worst they ever experienced.

After lunch I went for a walk along the coast, working northwards. There are charming little harbours every couple of hundred yards, some small, others smaller and some tiny, without even an access road; very narrow roads going over and around rocks and hollows, then a long beach looking out at Owey Island. Some houses had potato gardens which were ruined by the storm yesterday, as were trees, briars and everything else.

When I got back a new travel plan has been published on the notice board:

Friday; Burtonport to Colonsay, Scotland – 100 miles
Saturday:  to Garvelloch 15 miles
                        To Mallaig 65 miles

Sunday             To Applecross 30 miles

Monday to Cape Wrath 75 miles

Tuesday to Stromness, Orkney 70 miles

Fionbarr’s main purpose of coming was to see the Irish islands, all of which we missed and he especially wanted to see Iona, now gone off the list. So he decided to leave and go home rather than risk going to Scotland and not being able to get back because of volcanic ash or weather. He left about 6.00 pm.

Dinner 8.30.


25th May 2011.

Everybody fed up hanging around. “Harbours rot boats and men”

Went up to the pub to get the internet and do emails and weather when word came that Oscar Duffy, the business partner of Liam Miller, (who brought us to the Inisfree the other day) had arranged for us to have use of the shower in his house about a half mile from the town. Five of us went out and spent about an hour there.

Went to the pub about 10.00pm.

Not sure that I wouldn’t be better employed writing biographies of the Burtonport barmen, than this log!

Seamus Jimmy Johnny's (O’Donnell) is in the older of the two pubs. His great grandfather once owned a substantial part of the Rosses,  he built the house when the railway came to Burtonport. It is built from rock quarried to clear the site. A second floor dancehall was added in the good times and living quarters on third floor.

A girl from Dublin with local connections and a summer house here had heard about us and asked me for full details of the boat, which I couldn’t supply at the time. For spoofing purposes I am learning as I write:

“Ar Seachrán is an An IOR 2 tonner” (in fact it is 15 tons???)  --  ‘International Offshore Rules – 2 tonner’ converted for cruising.

Best nights sleep since the start! With everyone else I didn’t get up till nearly 10.00. No change in the forecast so plan to head for Colonsay and Scotland remains good.

First draft of a praise poem for Oscar Duffy commenced and as I write an invitation for all to dinner this evening with Liam Miller, has come by text.

Padraig has posted:
“Thursday 27th ? Burtonport
Dep. Fri. 06.00
(Bell 5.15)
For Colonsay”

Continuing difficulty of getting on to the pier because of the wind. But succeeded eventually and went walking up as far as Kincasslagh (home of the great Daniel O’Donnell!)

Returned and filled the boat’s fresh- water tanks, in preparation for departure in the morning.

A taxi collecteed us for Liam Miller’s at 6.30pm. His house is a converted school-house (1902) in Deriloughane, close to the house his mother was born in. 1st left after Gweebarra Bridge then three or four straight miles through forestry from Gweedore, about fifteen miles in all. The restoration was well done with many features of the original retained; roof panelling, floors, wooden rails around the walls etc with modern extensions added for kitchen and bedrooms. Included in the furnishings, a baby grand piano and a trumpet which Liam play, in addition to his other talents; lecturing in IT in Letterkenny I.T. running the boat charter to Inisfree, diving classes, diving local boat wrecks including a Spanish armada ship, a 35’ yacht which he has sailed all around Europe with only his wife, Maire as crew, restoring his house on Inisfree, farming – sheep, etc.

He had a deep antipathy for Udaras na Gaeltachta, who he felt wanted nothing to do with him because he was a Yank, by birth and accent. The charter/diving business is closed temporarily due to downturn.

Other guests:

Niall and Eileen ?? He is publisher. Big time sailor with a yacht permanently moored in Greece and camper van for getting there. I didn’t get to talk to his wife Eileen at all.

Patricia Sharkey is Maire’s sister and is in very poor health after a car accident five years ago. She was very involved in local history and genealogy, designed and maintained website - for herself and others, claims to have a greater collection of local history artefacts than Donegal Museum. She contributes to Irish programmes in the U.S. and Australia.

The meal was fabulous salamis, parma ham, sun-dried tomatoes, main course beef.

Taxi collected us at in anticipation of the early-morning start.

Straight to bed when we got back.

I noticed the notice-board has changed to:
“Depart 5.30
Bell 4.45”


26th May 2011.